The San Francisco 49ers have received an emphatic warning about signing a blockbuster free-agent cornerback after his time with the Minnesota Vikings.
The corner position is an interesting one for the 49ers. On the one hand, the team struggled with consistency as injuries and poor play led to several different starting corner combinations. While rookie Ambry Thomas excelled late in the season, even his encouraging improvements don’t make things feel especially stable.
Further, K’Waun Williams, Dontae Johnson, Josh Norman, and Jason Verrett are all set to be free agents. With Norman being benched due to his play for Thomas and Verrett’s ACL tear keeping him sidelined for most of 2021, even resigning Johnson and Williams doesn’t feel like enough.
But in terms of potential free agency replacements, Sports Illustrated’s Peter Panacy is telling San Francisco to avoid Patrick Peterson. The 49ers know the former Arizona Cardinal well, but that doesn’t mean Peterson should come to San Francisco, Panacy writes.
“Peterson will turn 31 years old this offseason and already dealt with hamstring injuries that limited him to 13 games played [in 2021] and landed him on injured reserve late in the season,” Panacy said. “It’s also likely Peterson would be asking for a sizable free-agent contract if Minnesota doesn’t re-sign him, perhaps his last major cash-in on the open market.”
While Peterson would be an impressive addition with proven ability, his cost may just be too much for San Francisco.
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How Much Would 49ers Have to Pay?
Contract talks and values can be tough to predict due to several changing variables like demand for the player and how each individual team feels about a name like Peterson.
However, Over the Cap offers an estimation of what Peterson’s value was in 2021, saying that the corner was worth about $6.45 million. The important context there is that he was playing on a 1-year, $8 million contract for Minnesota in 2021.
So, OTC estimates that the Vikings didn’t quite get equal value for Peterson’s contributions. As Panacy mentions, him missing four games in the 2021 regular season goes a long way to harming that value.
However, there’s still reason for the 49ers to consider Peterson as a legitimate option, and that’s due to his on-field play.
Peterson Improved in 2021
Peterson may be turning 32 before the 2022 regular season, but he’s definitely still has ability. In fact, while Panacy warns against signing Peterson, he also brought up a valuable stat.
“…Peterson nevertheless enjoyed a relatively productive 2021 campaign with the Vikings that saw him record one interception, five passes broken up and 45 tackles,” Panacy wrote. “Perhaps more importantly, Peterson decreased his passer rating allowed from 98.2 in 2020, his last year in Arizona, to 78.7 in 2021.”
Further, his completion rate and and yards per target improved in 2021 from his final season in Arizona in 2020. PFR states that his completion rate dropped from 67.1% to 56.6% and his yards per target dropped from 8.4 to 6.3.
And while Peterson may want another big pay day, he’s also an aging player that may want to still get a Super Bowl ring. Joining a current contender like San Francisco would help that cause, and he may be willing to take less than he would elsewhere accordingly. Plus, the combo of starting-quality play and veteran experience is hard to turn down.